Camera Lens Buying Guide For Beginners

How do I choose a camera lens? What factors should I consider when shopping for a lens?

As a photographer, the lens you choose can significantly impact the quality and style of your photos. With the vast array of options available, it can be overwhelming to determine which lens is best for you and your needs. 

This camera lens buying guide will provide you with information on the different types of lenses, what to consider when purchasing a lens, and some top recommendations for various situations. While the camera body itself can be an expensive purchase, most professional photographers will encourage putting your emphasis on buying good “glass,” which is a reference to the lenses.

Professional camera lenses on a wood background.

What is a Camera Lens?

A camera lens is an optical device used to focus light onto a camera’s film or digital sensor. It consists of a series of glass or plastic elements that are arranged in a specific way to bend and focus the light in order to create a sharp image.

The main purpose of a camera lens is to gather and focus light onto the film or sensor, but it also serves other important functions, such as controlling the amount of light that enters the camera, adjusting the focus of the image, and determining the field of view and magnification of the photograph.

Camera lenses are available in a wide range of types and sizes, each with its own specific characteristics and uses. Some common types of camera lenses include wide-angle lenses, telephoto lenses, and prime lenses.

Wide-angle lenses have a shorter focal length and are used to capture a wide field of view, while telephoto lenses have a longer focal length and are used to capture subjects that are far away.

Prime lenses have a fixed focal length and are generally used for their ability to produce high-quality images with minimal distortion.

Lens quality is an important factor to consider when purchasing a camera lens. Higher-quality lenses generally have better optics, which can result in sharper images, less distortion, and a better range of colors to more accurately capture the subject. They are often more durable and have a longer lifespan.

Learn more about Lens Sharpness here.

Types of Camera Lenses

There are several different types of lenses available, each with its own specific characteristics and uses. Understanding the differences between them is essential to determine which lens is best for your needs.

Prime Lenses

Prime lenses are lenses that have a fixed focal length, meaning they cannot zoom in or out. They are often smaller, lighter, and faster than zoom lenses, making them a popular choice for portrait and low-light photography.

Prime lenses tend to have a larger maximum aperture, which allows for a more significant amount of light to enter the lens and results in a shallow depth of field. This can create beautiful bokeh, or out-of-focus areas, in your images.

Because there is only one focal length, prime lenses tend to auto-focus faster and oftentimes focus better.

Learn more about prime lenses here.

Zoom Lenses

Zoom lenses, on the other hand, have a variable focal length, allowing you to adjust the magnification of your subject without physically moving closer or further away. These lenses are versatile and convenient, making them a popular choice for travel photography, events, and sports. Zoom lenses are often larger and heavier than prime lenses and may not have as large a maximum aperture.

Prime Lens And Zoom Lens Comparison

Prime lenses are lenses that have a fixed focal length and cannot be zoomed. They are characterized by their ability to produce high-quality images with minimal distortion and a wide aperture, allowing for a shallow field depth. Prime lenses are generally smaller and lighter than zoom lenses and are often less expensive. However, they are limited to one focal length, which can make them less versatile than zoom lenses.

Zoom lenses are lenses that have a variable focal length and can be zoomed in or out to change the magnification and field of view of the lens. They are characterized by their versatility, as they can cover a wide range of focal lengths and allow the photographer to adjust the magnification of the lens without changing lenses. However, zoom lenses are generally larger and heavier than prime lenses. They tend to produce images of lower quality due to the additional optics and mechanical components required to achieve their zoom capability. They are also generally more expensive than prime lenses.

Here is a table comparing prime lenses and zoom lenses:

Prime LensesZoom Lenses
Focal LengthFixedVariable
ApertureGenerally largerGenerally smaller
Image QualityGenerally higherGenerally lower
Size and WeightGenerally smaller and lighterGenerally larger and heavier
PriceGenerally lowerGenerally higher
VersatilityLimited to one focal lengthWide range of focal lengths
Focal lengths for digital SLR cameras

Focal Length and Typical Focal Length Ranges

The focal length of a camera lens is a measure of how strongly the lens can focus light. It is the distance from the center of the lens to the point where the light rays coming from a distant object are brought into sharp focus on the film or sensor of the camera. The focal length determines the field of view of a lens, as well as its magnification.

A lens with a shorter focal length has a wider field of view and is said to have a “wide-angle” view, while a lens with a longer focal length has a narrower field of view and is said to have a “telephoto” view. A lens with a longer focal length also has greater magnification, meaning that it can make objects appear larger in the frame.

The focal length of a lens is typically expressed in millimeters. Wide-angle lenses generally have focal lengths below 35mm, while telephoto lenses have focal lengths above 70mm. Lenses with focal lengths in between these ranges are considered to be normal or standard lenses.

The lens’s focal length can also affect the depth of field, which is the area of the photograph that appears to be in focus. Lenses with shorter focal lengths generally have a greater depth of field, while lenses with longer focal lengths have a shallower depth of field. This can be used to create a sense of depth or distance in a photograph.

Lenses can be categorized by focal length as follows:

Lens CategoryFocal Length
Ultra-Wide12 to 21 mm
Wide 24 to 35 mm
Standard 50 mm
Portrait 85 mm
Telephoto 135 mm
Super Telephoto200 to 500 mm

Wide Angle Lens

A wide-angle lens is a type of camera lens with a shorter focal length and is designed to capture a wide field of view. These lenses are typically used to photograph landscapes, architecture, and other scenes where it is important to capture a wide view of the surroundings.

Wide-angle lenses have a shorter focal length than normal or standard lenses, so they can gather more light and cover a wider angle of view. They are typically characterized by a focal length of 35mm or less, with some lenses having a focal length as short as 8mm or 10mm.

The wide field of view of a wide-angle lens can be useful for capturing the entire scene in a single photograph or for emphasizing the scale of a subject by including more of the surrounding environment. However, wide-angle lenses can also introduce distortion, which can cause straight lines to appear bent or curved in the image.

Wide-angle lenses are commonly used in landscape photography, as they can capture a broad view of the scene and include more of the foreground, middle ground, and background in the photograph. They are also useful for shooting in tight spaces, allowing the photographer to fit more of the scene into the frame.

Ultra-Wide Angle Lens

An ultra-wide angle lens is a type of camera lens with an even shorter focal length than a wide-angle lens, resulting in an even wider field of view. These lenses are typically used to capture very wide landscapes, astrophotography, skies, architecture, or other scenes that require a very broad view.

Ultra-wide angle lenses are typically characterized by a focal length of less than 24mm, with some lenses having a focal length as short as 8mm or 10mm. The extremely wide field of view of an ultra-wide angle lens can be useful for capturing a panoramic view of a scene or for emphasizing the scale of a subject by including even more of the surrounding environment.

Like wide-angle lenses, ultra-wide angle lenses can introduce distortion, which can cause straight lines to appear bent or curved in the image. They can also produce a “fisheye” effect, which is a distortion that causes objects near the edges of the frame to appear stretched or curved.

Ultra-wide angle lenses are often used in landscape and architectural photography, as they can capture a very broad view of the scene and include more of the foreground, middle ground, and background in the photograph. They are also useful for shooting in tight spaces, allowing the photographer to fit a wider view of the scene into the frame.

Standard Lens

A standard lens is a camera lens with a focal length similar to the diagonal size of the film or digital sensor in the camera. These lenses are often referred to as “normal” lenses because they produce images that look similar to what the human eye sees.

Standard lenses typically have a focal length of around 50mm, although this can vary slightly depending on the size of the film or sensor in the camera. For example, a standard lens for a full-frame camera with a 35mm film or digital sensor might have a focal length of around 50mm, while a standard lens for a crop-sensor camera might have a focal length of around 35mm.

Standard lenses are generally considered to be versatile lenses that can be used for a wide range of photography subjects, including portraits, landscapes, and street photography. They are often considered a good “all-around” lens because they are not too wide or too telephoto, and they tend to produce images with minimal distortion.

Standard lenses are often used as a baseline for comparing other lenses, as they are designed to produce images that are similar to what the human eye sees. They are often used as a reference when discussing other lenses and sometimes as a benchmark for lens quality.

Portrait Lens

A portrait lens is a type of camera lens that is designed for taking portraits, which are photographs of people. Portrait lenses are typically characterized by their ability to produce sharp, detailed images with a shallow depth of field, which helps to isolate the subject from the background and create a sense of separation.

Portrait lenses are typically short telephoto lenses, which means they have a longer focal length than a standard lens, but not much, and can produce a narrow field of view. This allows the photographer to fill the frame with the subject and produce a close-up image with a shallow depth of field. Telephoto lenses also have the added benefit of compressing the perspective of the scene, which can make the subject appear closer to the background.

The most common portrait lens focal lengths are in the 85mm to 135mm range, although longer focal lengths are also sometimes used. Lenses with focal lengths in this range are generally considered to be good choices for portraits because they produce images with a flattering perspective and minimal distortion.

In addition to their focal length, portrait lenses are also often characterized by their aperture, which is the size of the lens opening that allows light to pass through. Lenses with a wide aperture (low f-number) can produce a shallow depth of field and are, therefore, well-suited for portraits.

Telephoto Lens

A telephoto lens is a type of camera lens that has a longer focal length and is designed to capture subjects that are far away. These lenses are characterized by their ability to magnify distant subjects and produce a narrow field of view.

Telephoto lenses are typically used for sports, wildlife, and other types of photography where the subject is too far away to be captured with a normal or wide-angle lens. 

Telephoto lenses have focal lengths that are longer than those of normal or wide-angle lenses. They are typically characterized by focal lengths of 70mm or more, with some lenses having focal lengths of over 300mm. The longer the focal length of the lens, the greater the magnification and the narrower the field of view.

Telephoto lenses can be useful for isolating a subject from the background and creating a sense of distance in a photograph. However, they can also be more difficult to use than other types of lenses due to their narrow field of view and the need for precise focusing. Often times telephoto lenses have a variable aperture and are unable to go below an f-stop of 4 which causes them to need more light. They also tend to be larger and heavier than other types of lenses and may require the use of a tripod or other support to keep the camera steady.

Super Telephoto Lens

A super telephoto lens is a type of camera lens that has an extremely long focal length and is designed for capturing subjects that are very far away. These lenses are characterized by their ability to produce very high magnification and a very narrow field of view.

Super telephoto lenses are typically in the same way as a regular telephoto lens; for sports, wildlife, and other types of photography where the subject is too far away to be captured with a normal or telephoto lens. They are also commonly used for astronomical photography and other specialized applications where a very long focal length is required.

Super telephoto lenses have focal lengths that are much longer than those of normal, wide-angle, or telephoto lenses. They are typically characterized by focal lengths of 300mm or more, with some lenses having focal lengths of over 1000mm. The longer the focal length of the lens, the greater the magnification and the narrower the field of view.

Super telephoto lenses can be useful for capturing very small or distant subjects with great detail, but they can also be more difficult to use than other types of lenses due to their narrow field of view and the need for precise focusing. Much like the telephoto lens, they generally have a variable aperture and are unable to go below an f-stop of 4 which causes them to need more light. They also tend to be very large and heavy and may require the use of a tripod or other support to keep the camera steady.

Specialty Lenses

Macro Lens

A macro lens is a type of camera lens that is designed for taking close-up photographs of small subjects, such as insects, flowers, and other small objects. Macro lenses are characterized by their ability to produce high magnification and a very shallow depth of field, which helps to isolate the subject and create a sense of separation from the background.

Macro lenses are typically designed to focus on subjects that are very close to the lens, often at a distance of just a few inches. They are often used for scientific or artistic purposes, as they can capture intricate details and textures that are not visible to the naked eye.

Macro lenses are usually prime lenses, which means they have a fixed focal length and cannot be zoomed. The most common focal length for a macro lens is around 100mm, although there are also shorter and longer macro lenses available.

In addition to their focal length, macro lenses are also often characterized by their aperture, which is the size of the lens opening that allows light to pass through. Lenses with a wide aperture (low f-number) can produce a shallow depth of field and are therefore well-suited for macro photography.

Macro lenses can be useful for capturing small subjects with great detail, but they can also be more difficult to use than other types of lenses due to their narrow field of view and the need for precise focusing. They may also require the use of specialized lighting or other techniques to capture the small subject in focus.

Fisheye lens

A fisheye lens is a type of camera lens that has an extremely wide field of view and is designed to capture a distorted, spherical image. These lenses are characterized by their ability to produce a hemispherical image, with a field of view that is typically around 180 degrees or more.

Fisheye lenses are often used for artistic or creative purposes, as they can produce a unique and distorted perspective that is not possible with other types of lenses. They are also sometimes used for specialized applications, such as panoramic photography or surveillance.

Fisheye lenses are typically wide-angle lenses with a very short focal length, often in the 8mm to 16mm range. They are characterized by their ability to produce a heavily distorted image with a very wide field of view. The distortion caused by a fisheye lens is often referred to as a “fisheye” effect, and it can cause straight lines to appear curved or bent in the image.

In addition to their wide field of view, fisheye lenses are also often characterized by their aperture, which is the size of the lens opening that allows light to pass through. Lenses with a wide aperture (low f-number) can produce a shallow depth of field and are therefore well-suited for fisheye photography.

Fisheye lenses can be useful for capturing a very wide view of a scene, but they can also be more difficult to use than other types of lenses due to their distorted perspective and the need for precise framing. They may also require the use of specialized lighting or other techniques to capture the subject in focus.

Tilt shift lens

A tilt-shift lens is a type of camera lens that allows the photographer to adjust the orientation of the lens relative to the film or digital sensor of the camera. These lenses are characterized by their ability to tilt and shift the plane of focus, which can be used to control the depth of field and perspective in a photograph.

Tilt-shift lenses are often used in architecture, product, and landscape photography, as they can be used to correct distortions and create a sense of depth in the image. They are also sometimes used for creative purposes, as they can produce a miniature effect by blurring the background and making the subject appear much smaller than it actually is.

Tilt-shift lenses are usually prime lenses, which means they have a fixed focal length and cannot be zoomed. They are typically characterized by their ability to tilt and shift the plane of focus, which allows the photographer to control the depth of field and perspective in the image.

In addition to their tilting and shifting abilities, tilt-shift lenses are also often characterized by their aperture, which is the size of the lens opening that allows light to pass through. Lenses with a wide aperture (low f-number) can produce a shallow depth of field and are, therefore, well-suited for tilt-shift photography.

Tilt-shift lenses can be useful for correcting distortions and controlling the depth of field and perspective in a photograph, but they can also be more difficult to use than other types of lenses due to the need for precise focusing and the requirement to tilt and shift the lens manually. They may also require the use of specialized lighting or other techniques to capture the subject in focus.

Infrared lens

An infrared lens is a type of camera lens that is designed to capture images in the infrared spectrum, which is a range of wavelengths that are longer than those of visible light. Infrared light is not visible to the human eye, but it can be detected by specialized sensors and cameras.

Infrared lenses are often used in scientific, military, and other specialized applications where it is important to capture images in the infrared spectrum. They are characterized by their ability to transmit infrared light and block visible light, which allows them to capture images that are not visible to the naked eye.

Infrared lenses are usually designed to be used with specialized infrared cameras or sensors that are sensitive to the infrared spectrum. They are typically characterized by their focal length and aperture, which are the same as those of regular camera lenses.

In addition to their ability to capture images in the infrared spectrum, infrared lenses may also have other specialized features, such as anti-reflective coatings or special materials that are designed to reduce or eliminate glare and other optical distortions.

Infrared lenses can be useful for capturing images in the infrared spectrum, but they can also be more difficult to use than other types of lenses due to the need for specialized cameras and sensors, as well as the requirement to work with wavelengths that are not visible to the human eye. They may also require the use of specialized lighting or other techniques to capture the subject in focus.

Different apertures of a lens

Aperture

Aperture is an adjustable opening in a camera lens that controls the amount of light that passes through the lens and reaches the film or digital sensor of the camera. The size of the aperture is measured in f-stops, and it is usually adjustable via a control on the lens or camera body.

Aperture is important to understand when selecting the right camera lens because a big differentiator between lenses (besides the type of lens) is the aperture of that lens. Typically, lenses are rated by how high (smaller f-stop number) the aperture can go. Lenses with a higher aperture cost more money. Lenses with a greater focal range generally have a lower aperture which is why many telephoto lenses only go down to an f-stop of 4 or 4.5.

The aperture plays an important role in determining the exposure of a photograph, as it controls the amount of light that enters the camera. A larger aperture (smaller f-stop number) allows more light to pass through the lens and results in a brighter image, while a smaller aperture (larger f-stop number) allows less light to pass through the lens and results in a darker image.

In addition to controlling the exposure of a photograph, the aperture also affects the depth of field of the image. A large aperture (smaller f-stop number) produces a shallow depth of field, which means that only a small portion of the image is in focus, while a small aperture (larger f-stop number) produces a deep depth of field, which means that a larger portion of the image is in focus.

The aperture of a lens is typically adjustable over a range of f-stops, which are a series of numbers that represent the size of the aperture opening. The f-stop scale is an inverse logarithmic scale, which means that each f-stop represents a halving or doubling of the size of the aperture.

For example, an f-stop of f/2.8 represents a larger aperture than an f-stop of f/4 because the aperture opening is wider at f/2.8 than it is at f/4. On the other hand, an f-stop of f/16 represents a smaller aperture than an f-stop of f/11 because the aperture opening is narrower at f/16 than it is at f/11.

The size of the aperture opening is determined by the size of the diaphragm blades inside the lens, which can be opened or closed to adjust the size of the aperture. The aperture can be adjusted manually by the photographer, or it can be set to adjust automatically based on the exposure settings of the camera.

In addition to controlling the exposure and depth of field of a photograph, the aperture also affects the amount of light that reaches the film or digital sensor, which can have an impact on the overall image quality. Larger apertures (smaller f-stop numbers) can produce softer images due to the effects of diffraction, while smaller apertures (larger f-stop numbers) can produce sharper images.

Aperture is an important control for photographers, as it allows them to adjust the exposure and depth of field of their images to suit the subject and the desired effect. It is often used in conjunction with other controls, such as shutter speed and ISO, to achieve the desired exposure and creative effect in a photograph.

How Does Aperture Affect Speed?

Aperture and speed are two separate elements that can be adjusted to control the exposure of a photograph. Aperture refers to the size of the opening in the lens that allows light to pass through and reach the film or digital sensor of the camera, while speed refers to the length of time that the shutter is open and the film or sensor is exposed to light.

In general, the aperture and speed of a photograph are inversely related, which means that if one is increased, the other must be decreased in order to maintain the same level of exposure. For example, if you increase the aperture (smaller f-stop number) to let more light into the camera, you will need to decrease the speed (shorter shutter duration) in order to prevent the image from being overexposed. Conversely, if you decrease the aperture (larger f-stop number) to let less light into the camera, you will need to increase the speed (longer shutter duration) in order to prevent the image from being underexposed.

The relationship between aperture and speed is often referred to as the “exposure triangle,” as the three elements of aperture, speed, and ISO (the sensitivity of the film or digital sensor to light) all work together to determine the exposure of a photograph. By adjusting the aperture and speed in relation to each other, photographers can achieve the desired level of exposure and creative effect in their images.

For example, if you are photographing a fast-moving subject and want to freeze the action, you may want to use a fast speed (short shutter duration) and a wide aperture (smaller f-stop number) to allow more light into the camera and reduce the risk of motion blur. On the other hand, if you are photographing a static subject and want to create a sense of movement or motion blur, you may want to use a slower speed (longer shutter duration) and a smaller aperture (larger f-stop number) to allow less light into the camera and create the desired effect.

It’s important to note that the relationship between aperture and speed is not a fixed one, and the optimal settings will depend on the specific subject, the light that exists on that subject, and the desired creative effect. By adjusting the aperture and speed in relation to each other and to the ISO setting, photographers can fine-tune the exposure and creative effect of their images.

For example, if you are photographing a low-light scene and want to use a wide aperture (smaller f-stop number) to allow more light into the camera, you may need to increase the ISO setting (the sensitivity of the film or digital sensor to light) in order to compensate for the slower speed that is required to maintain the same level of exposure.

Understanding the relationship between aperture and speed and how they work together to control the exposure of a photograph is an important aspect of photography. By adjusting these elements in relation to each other and to the ISO setting, photographers can achieve the desired exposure and creative effect in their images.

What’s A Good Aperture For Beginners?

Professional photographers often purchase camera lenses with wide maximum apertures of f/1.4, f/1.8, or f/2 in order to be able to shoot in any lighting conditions. These wide apertures make these lenses some of the best on the market, although they can also be more expensive than other lenses. 

Beginner photographers may prefer to start with lenses with a maximum aperture of f/4 or f/5.6, which are more affordable and still useful for learning photography. These lenses are not as fast as the more expensive options and cannot achieve the same shallow depth of field, but they are a good starting point for those just learning about photography.

Hands putting on modern digital camera professional lens

Lens Compatibility 

What should you check to make sure a lens is compatible with your camera?

There are a few key factors to consider when determining whether a lens is compatible with your camera:

Lens mount

The lens mount is the mechanism that connects the lens to the camera body. Different camera brands and models use different lens mounts, so it’s important to make sure that the lens you are considering is compatible with the lens mount of your camera.

Lens Format

Lens format refers to the size of the film or digital sensor that is used in a camera, and it determines the field of view and magnification of a lens. There are several common lens formats, including full frame, medium format, APS-C, and Micro Four Thirds.

  • Full frame: A full frame lens is designed to be used with a full frame camera, which has a sensor size that is the same size as a 35mm film frame. Full frame lenses are generally considered to be high-quality lenses that produce sharp, detailed images.
  • Medium Format: A medium format lens is designed to be used with a medium format camera, which is a type of camera that has a larger film or digital sensor than a full frame camera. Medium format cameras are typically used by professional photographers and are known for their high image quality and large print sizes.
  • APS-C: APS-C (Advanced Photo System type-C) lenses are designed to be used with cameras that have an APS-C sized sensor, which is smaller than a full frame sensor. APS-C lenses are generally smaller and lighter than full frame lenses and are well-suited for use with smaller cameras, such as mirrorless cameras and DSLRs.
  • Micro Four Thirds: Micro Four Thirds lenses are designed to be used with cameras that have a Micro Four Thirds sized sensor, which is even smaller than an APS-C sensor. Micro Four Thirds lenses are generally the smallest and lightest of the three lens formats and are well-suited for use with compact and portable cameras.

The lens format that you choose will depend on the specific camera that you are using and the type of photography that you want to do. Full frame lenses are generally considered to be the highest quality, but they are also the largest and heaviest, while APS-C and Micro Four Thirds lenses are generally smaller and lighter but may not offer the same level of image quality.

Lens Cost

The price of a camera lens can vary widely depending on a number of factors, including the brand, the focal length, the aperture, the image stabilization technology, and the overall quality of the lens.

Lens prices can range from a few hundred dollars for entry-level lenses to several thousand dollars for professional-grade lenses. For example, a basic 50mm prime lens from a popular brand might cost around $100, while a high-end telephoto lens with image stabilization and a wide maximum aperture could cost several thousand dollars.

It’s important to consider your budget and your photography needs when choosing a lens, as the price of a lens can be a significant investment. You may want to start with a more affordable lens as you learn about photography and figure out what features are most important to you and then upgrade to a more expensive lens as your skills and needs evolve. 

Another popular approach to lens buying is to build your library of lenses one lens at a time beginning with one all-around shooting lens.

Overall, the price of a camera lens can vary widely, and it’s important to consider your budget and your photography needs when choosing a lens. Often times buying a new lens is a better choice than buying a new camera. Here’s an article I wrote on how to decide between buying a new lens or a new camera.

Lens Features

There are many different features that can be found on camera lenses, and the specific features that are available will depend on the brand, model, and type of lens. Some common features that you may find on camera lenses include:

  • Image stabilization: Some lenses have image stabilization technology that helps to reduce the effects of camera shake and allow for longer exposures. Image stabilization can be especially useful for shooting in low light or when using longer focal lengths. Nikon calls it Vibration Reduction, or VR.
  • Autofocus: Most modern lenses have autofocus capabilities, which allow the lens to automatically adjust the focus of the image based on the distance to the subject. Autofocus can be especially useful when shooting fast-moving subjects or in situations where manual focusing is difficult.
  • Lens coating: Some lenses have special coatings on the glass elements that help to reduce lens flare, ghosting, and other optical artifacts. Lens coatings can improve the overall image quality and contrast of the lens.
  • Control Ring: The control ring is a feature that is found on some Canon lenses. It is a rotatable ring that is located near the front of the lens, and it can be used to adjust various camera settings or lens functions depending on the specific lens and the camera that it is being used with.

There are many different features that can be found on camera lenses, and the specific features that are available will depend on the brand, model, and type of lens.

Summary Of Things To Consider Before Buying A Camera Lens

  1. Prime or Zoom

Prime has a fixed focal length, whereas zoom lenses of adjustable focal length. Each has its pros and cons. Choose depending on how you intend to use the lens. Prime lenses are generally faster and produce sharper images, but zoom lenses offer more versatility.

  1. Focal Length

There are a variety of lenses, both prime and zoom, with different purposes. Do you have a primary goal for this lens, or do you want it to be more of an all-purpose lens?

The focal length determines how much of the scene is captured in the photograph. A lens with a shorter focal length (e.g., a wide-angle lens) will capture a wider field of view, while a lens with a longer focal length (e.g., a telephoto lens) will capture a narrower field of view.

  1. Aperture

The aperture determines the amount of light that enters the lens and reaches the camera’s sensor. A lens with a larger aperture (e.g., f/2.8) will let in more light and allow for faster shutter speeds, making it useful for low-light situations or for capturing fast-moving subjects.

Aperture impacts the depth of field and speed due to the amount of light that is allowed to pass through. Some lenses have adjustable apertures. 

  1. Compatibility

Not all lenses work with every model of camera, even if they are the same brand. There are adapters that can be purchased for some incompatibilities, but not all features are guaranteed to work. Check that your chosen lens is compatible with your camera body.

  1. Cost

Consider your budget when shopping for a lens. Lenses can range in price from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars. The entry cost for a lens is around $100, and lenses can get expensive quickly. Consider a zoom lens that can be used in multiple scenarios if cost is a primary concern.

  1. Size & Weight

Telephoto lenses can get heavy. You’ll be the one carrying the lens around, so consider how large of a lens you really need. 

  1. Build Quality

The build quality of a lens refers to the materials and construction of the lens. High-quality lenses are generally made with sturdy materials and are designed to withstand heavy use and harsh conditions.

Look for lenses that are made with high-quality materials and have good build quality. Lenses that are well-made will generally produce sharper images and have fewer optical flaws.

  1. Features

Features include image stabilization and auto-focus. The specific features that are available will depend on the particular lens that you are considering.

  1. Purpose

Consider what you will be using the lens for. If you plan on taking portraits, a lens with a longer focal length and a wide aperture will be ideal. If you plan on taking landscape photos, a wide-angle lens with a smaller aperture may be more suitable.

References:

https://www.adorama.com/alc/prime-vs-zoom-lens-which-one-is-right-for-you/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prime_lens

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zoom_lens

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